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Racists targeted England’s Black players. 1 million people have signed a petition to ban abusers from matches for life.

People demonstrate at the Marcus Rashford mural in Withington, Manchester, England, on July 13, after it was defaced following the Euro 2020 final between Italy and England. (Peter Powell/Reuters)
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LONDON — After England’s Black players were targeted with a barrage of racist abuse following the team’s Euro 2020 loss against Italy on Sunday, the Football Association, along with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, moved quickly to condemn the vitriol, which came in the form of hateful comments and monkey emoji.

Under regulations from 1989 designed to deter offensive behavior, those who hurl racist abuse at players from the stands at stadiums are banned from attending matches. But the rules do not cover online trolling — of which there is plenty.

Facing growing criticism, the prime minister announced Wednesday that the order would be extended to cover online racism.

The change came after efforts by fans to insist that more needed to be done.

Three women, Shaista Aziz, Amna Abdullatif and Huda Jawad, who describe themselves as the “Three Hijabis” because they are Muslim and wear hijabs, led much of the push among fans to stop future perpetrators both online and offline from watching soccer in a stadium, launching a petition on titled “Ban racists for life from all football matches in England."

“We are calling for the Football Association and the government to work together now to ban all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life,” the trio wrote, targeting the campaign at the prime minister, the Football Association and Secretary of State Oliver Dowden.

As of Wednesday morning local time, more than 1 million people had signed their names — a figure that continues to climb as people across the nation learn of the women’s efforts and share the petition.

In an email to The Washington Post, Abdullatif said the response to the petition has been “incredible” and promised that the group’s work was just beginning.

“We need to see action. We need to ensure we’re not just talking, which we’ve done many times before about racism in football. Words alone don’t create change,” she said. “Those perpetrating this behavior need to be held accountable.”

Abdullatif, who is based in Manchester, said she and the other activists hope the petition will prompt a response from the Football Association and help to implement meaningful action.

In a statement released earlier this week, the association said that it was “appalled” and that it would continue to support players and punish those responsible for racist abuse.

Boris Johnson, Prince William condemn racist abuse of England’s Black players

Abdullatif praised the players. “They took the knee and wore rainbow armbands and supported one another,” she said, adding that the squad’s inclusive actions both on and off the pitch were helping to change football culture so that women, minority groups and people of color feel less ostracized and more connected.

During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Johnson faced a frosty reception as lawmakers blasted him for previously refusing to condone those who booed players taking the knee on the pitch in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

For many, the abuse that followed the team’s loss was a clear sign that Britain has much work to do when it comes to tackling racism — and not just in the world of sport.

After a mural of Manchester United and England player Rashford was defaced earlier this week in Manchester, the artist who created the tribute, as well as hundreds of locals, flocked to the site with messages of solidarity, handwritten letters from young fans and red love hearts.

“Overwhelmed. Thankful. Lost for words,” Rashford said in response to the scenes.

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition party, hailed the team and called on the Conservative government and technology giants to do more to eradicate racial abuse on social media. On Wednesday, Johnson said he had met with leaders of such platforms and warned that the government would be dishing out harsh consequences such as fines if the lack of control and inaction continued.

Taking to Twitter once again Wednesday to encourage others to sign their names, Jawad expressed the group’s solidarity with the team’s Black players quite simply: “This is our hug to our magnificent kings.”

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